With 48 million people in the US affected by hearing loss, chances are someone close to you struggles with this serious disability. It can be frustrating because hearing loss is an invisible disability, meaning that it is up to your loved one to open about the condition and what you can do to support them. This is not always easy for the affected person and in many instances, they are not even aware that it’s an issue at all.
This is because hearing loss often creeps in over years. An affected individual may have lost high frequency sounds such as birds chirping, or wind in the trees and not even know it. Even more alarming they may struggle to keep up with conversation, leaving them feeling depressed and isolated. Recognizing a hearing loss in someone you love and learning how you can support them can make a huge difference for their health and happiness in the future.
Understand the effects of hearing loss
It’s important to understand that while hearing loss is an ear issue it ultimately affects the transfer of sound to the brain. This is where speech and sound are comprehended and can cause serious cognitive health issues as well as emotional issues. It can be isolating and frustrating for your loved ones when many people are speaking at once or they struggle to hear you in a noisy setting. Understanding how serious hearing loss is to the quality of your loved one’s health is the first step in supporting them through a journey of healing with hearing loss
Adjust how you communicate
Pay attention to the environment you are trying to communicate in. If the room is noisy, this will make it harder for your loved one to isolate the sounds they want to hear, such as a specific conversation. In addition, make sure that the room is well lit so your loved one has a full view of your face. Often, when hearing declines, the sense of sight compensates. Many people with hearing loss tend to use visual cues like lip reading, facial expression, and body language, whether they realize it or not.
Another helpful tip for successful communication is to speak evenly and clearly, giving the listener time to comprehend each word you are saying. If they ask you to repeat yourself, try rephrasing instead, as this adds extra context to what is being conveyed.
Commit to being a communication partner
Make a commitment to your loved one to take the time to help them communicate clearly. Learn what helps them hear and commit to take the time to help them and others communicate with them. However, it is important not to enable or create a codependent relationship. Oftentimes one person in a relationship will take on the part of the interpreter and this can build resentment and a strain in the relationship. Understanding the difference between providing support and enabling a person is essential, and the line is different for each relationship.
Help provide education on treatment
Helping your loved one admit they have an issue that requires treatment is one of the most supportive things you can do. It’s just important to suggest it in a loving way. Don’t wait to be frustrated by a misunderstanding to shout, “you need to have your hearing checked!” Instead try a quiet moment to suggest treatment could help them communicate clearer. Chances are they already know they have a problem, and your gentle suggestion may be the push they need to finally seek help. Let them know the many benefits of hearing aids. Increased intimacy in relationships, increased happiness, greater ability to pursue hobbies, improved cognitive health and greater independence are just a few.
Help your loved one take the first step
Often the first step is the most difficult. Offer your loved one support in scheduling their hearing exam. It can be helpful to accompany them or even schedule your own hearing appointment at the same time. It’s never too early to have your hearing tested and never too late to seek treatment. However, the sooner you do, the sooner your loved one can enjoy the many benefits of hearing aids. Encourage your loved one to schedule an appointment today.